100% Maris Otter Barleywine?

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Jack Arandir

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Every year since 2016 my friends and I brew a big beer to age. Then we sample each year's batch. We've done 3 Russian Imperial Stouts, an Old Ale, and last year a Doppelbock. This year we want to brew a barleywine, and I have a second use whiskey barrel to age it in.

I've made several barleywines but I've never been happy with them. To my taste, I don't like the amber-to-brown flavors you get from victory, brown, and darker crystal malts. They've tasted toasty and muddy. By contrast, the doppelbock had astonishingly delicious flavors without any medium or crystal malts (just Pilsner, Munich, and a dash of Carafa II for color). That got me thinking -- what would doppelbock techniques taste like with English ingredients?

So this year I'm considering a 100% Maris Otter barleywine (plus a dash of midnight wheat for color adjustment). I'll use a combination of Muntons and Warminster to get some complexity, a German style double decoction, and a 2 hour boil to develop malty flavors. That should give plenty of melanoidins and complexity going into the fermenter, plus a year in the barrel to develop oak, bourbon, and wine-like flavors.

What do you think?

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Brewsmith

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I would just go a little more on the bittering hops. Big beers can easily be sweet, and you’re planning to leave it a while. I’d bump the bittering another 20 IBU or so. It doesn’t need to be American Barleywine bitter, just a little more firm. I’d aim for closer to 60-70 total IBUs, but that’s just me. Other than that, I think you’re spot on.
 

Albionwood

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I made a similar beer many years ago and it was delicious. Specialty malts often ruin a barleywine.
BUT - I definitely would not advise using that ESB yeast! It is a notoriously poor attenuator, the opposite of what you want for a barleywine.
 
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Jack Arandir

Jack Arandir

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I’d bump the bittering another 20 IBU or so. It doesn’t need to be American Barleywine bitter, just a little more firm. I’d aim for closer to 60-70 total IBUs, but that’s just me.
I debated this quite a bit, and after reading the recipe for Moments Before Impending Doom (MBID), they use only 22 IBUs. This barleywine should be even lower FG and with no crystal malt should be even less sweet (1.025 for mine, 1.034 for MBID). That's why I'm thinking low IBUs.
I definitely would not advise using that ESB yeast! It is a notoriously poor attenuator, the opposite of what you want for a barleywine.
Similarly, MBID uses Scottish ale yeast, which is even less attenuative than ESB. I picked ESB because it's my favorite English strain after multiple A-B tests. (Much better IMO than London Ale 3 and Safale 04) Even with ESB yeast Beersmith is projecting FG 1.025, which is fairly low for the style (and way lower than some recipes I've seen). If I switched to a more attenuative strain it could push FG below 1.020.
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DBhomebrew

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A mostly Maris Otter English Barley wine recipe:

And at 2yrs in the bottle, absolutely delicious!

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Albionwood

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The predicted FG looks low compared to most barleywines because your OG is at the low end for the style.
I also love the ESB yeast flavor and have made really delicious ales with it. Just not high-gravity ales, because it won't attenuate them enough. But if you mash low and long to get a fermentable wort, maybe it will all work out. The barrel aging might squeeze out a few more points, and if it's a fresh barrel the bourbon will thin out the body a little. I wouldn't leave it in for a year though, unless you've already run a beer through the barrel. In my experience you get a ton of barrel character after 6-8 weeks in a freshly-dumped barrel.

Edit: Where did you get the idea that OYL-015 attenuates less than WY 1968? That's not what the spec sheets indicate. OYL-015 is said to be 73-76% (i.e. normal) but 1968 is only 67-71%. (And in a high-gravity beer I think it will struggle to reach the low end of that range.)
 
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pvtpublic

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I debated this quite a bit, and after reading the recipe for Moments Before Impending Doom (MBID), they use only 22 IBUs. This barleywine should be even lower FG and with no crystal malt should be even less sweet (1.025 for mine, 1.034 for MBID). That's why I'm thinking low IBUs.
Don't forget, a lot of IBUs drop out over time. It's quite possible that those 22 IBUs are after aging. With your calculated ~40 IBUs, you might be able to wind up with about 20 after a year. I'd say roll with it if that's your goal. You can always tweak it next time.
 
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Jack Arandir

Jack Arandir

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You can pitch ESB at the start for flavor followed a few days later with Notty or such for attenuation.
This is a good suggestion. I plan to brew a 5gal bitter using ESB yeast to become the yeast starter for the barleywine. I didn't realize ESB has such low attenuation. I've seen barleywines and Russian imperials with FGs of 1.040 or higher, so I assumed 1.025 would be fine. I'll keep track of the fermentation using the Tilt hydrometer and possibly add S-04 or similar if I think FG is too high.

That said, wouldn't a high FG be beneficial for long aging? Maybe not because the main benefit of barrels is the oak and bourbon that comes independent of the yeast. Decisions...
 

Brewsmith

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It’s a big beer and is already going to have a higher final gravity. Even higher gravity is just going to add to the sweetness when it ages and the hops drop out. What you don’t want is a beer that is a few years old and undrinkable because it is cloying sweet and syrupy thick.
 
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Jack Arandir

Jack Arandir

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I'd use nottingham yeast, but other than that it looks lovely.
I'm fine with changing the yeast. My plan is to brew 5 gals of a 4.0% Best Bitter this Saturday, and harvest that yeast to use in the Barleywine. After some A-B testing, I decided London ESB was my favorite English ale yeast for Milds and Bitters. I discovered that I don't like esters -- My favorite beers are German lagers, and I don't like estery Belgians or hazy IPAs.

I do have Safale 04 I could use instead, but I did not like it as much as London ESB. I haven't tried Nottingham yeast. What flavors does it produce?
 

DBhomebrew

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ESB (Fullers) is often chosen for its esters. Nottingham is a stronger attenuator and lower in esters. Fermented cool (60F), it's very neutral. Cool fermentation is great for big beers, it helps keep the fusels away.

If you like the flavor of ESB and want the extra attenuation of Notty, pitch the ESB first with the Notty 2-3 days after fermentation takes off. Don't wait until the ESB is done, pitch the Notty when the ESB is still working.
 

Northern_Brewer

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That got me thinking -- what would doppelbock techniques taste like with English ingredients?
Effectively you've just reinvented the pale style of barleywine pioneered by Tennants (who were then bought by Whitbread) as Gold Label. Ron Pattinson has a particular fascination with Gold Label so he's written quite a bit about it including at least two recipes - being invented at the height of adjunct use in British brewing it's about 70% pale malt, 10-20% maize, 10-20% invert sugar, 3-hour boil for ~11.3% ABV, 50-60 IBU, 78-83% apparent attenuation, aged 6-12 months in wooden hogsheads.

It's since ended up in the hands of ABI and been reduced to 7.5% to take it under the big step in beer taxes here.
So this year I'm considering a 100% Maris Otter barleywine (plus a dash of midnight wheat for color adjustment). I'll use a combination of Muntons and Warminster to get some complexity, a German style double decoction, and a 2 hour boil to develop malty flavors. That should give plenty of melanoidins and complexity going into the fermenter, plus a year in the barrel to develop oak, bourbon, and wine-like flavors.

Think like a British brewer - you have top-quality ingredients, let them do their thing without the brewer getting in the way. You're not dealing with boring German malts that need tricks like decoction to make them interesting, simple is better.

Warminster Otter in particular is as good a malt as you can get, personally I'd argue that the Muntons would just dilute the complexity of the Warminster.... As another thought, given that Sheffield is the spiritual home of pale barleywine, then you could have Golden Promise replacing some or all of the Otter as a more "northern" variety.

I see no point in adjusting the colour with midnight wheat - again, it's all about letting ingredients do their thing, without disguising them.

As for yeast - I'm not that much of a fan of 1968, but then if you've only tried it against S-04 and 1318 then I can see why it might be your favourite. And if you don't like yeast character then Nottingham would probably suit you well, but for me British brewing is all about balance, each component brings something to the final beer without overpowering it, and yeast character is part of that. Each to their own. I must admit I don't really brew barleywines so I can't say how they would perform in high-gravity beers, but something like 1099 would be appropriate here, and 1469 is generally regarded as the place most people should start if they're looking at British yeasts from the US labs. Even if they're some way from what actually gets used in British brewers - only people who have never drunk Fuller's beer would claim that 1968 is like the real Fuller's yeast. I'd also put in an honourable mention for WLP041 (and presumably 1332, although I've not used it) which is a British yeast that gives a nice drinkability without being too showy.
 
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Jack Arandir

Jack Arandir

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Warminster Otter in particular is as good a malt as you can get, personally I'd argue that the Muntons would just dilute the complexity of the Warminster
I was thinking how to make a complex beer using only one malt -- blending two Maris Otters from two different maltsters. Plus I could mash them separately and taste the runoff to see exactly the difference. (Yes I could make a malt tea too...) But really using both is driven by having two sacks of grain to use up. I don't brew many British beers (mild in fall, occasional bitter), so I don't want the malt sitting around. And since the Munton's is older I want to use that up first.
As for yeast - I'm not that much of a fan of 1968, but then if you've only tried it against S-04 and 1318 then I can see why it might be your favourite.
That's exactly right. I've tried a few other strains, but the specific A-B split batch tests were 1968, S-04, and 1318. I'll try 1099 and 1469 next time. I moved to a conical fermenter which gives better temperature control, but removes the ability to split batch and test yeasts. I want to do more A-B comparisons.

I've brewed several bitters but haven't yet made one that I really liked. I'm looking for malt complexity, rich flavor, drinkability, and nuanced but subtle esters. Basically a pils from the UK. Does anyone have a recipe for a great bitter?
 

BigEd

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Here's a simple recipe that I've made several times. It's a take on Bluebird Bitter with a slightly higher gravity, maybe putting it into the special bitter category. You could certainly cut everything back 10-15% to make a standard bitter. My basic advice with this style is keep the recipe simple, used high quality ingredients, do a 90 minute boil, and use two hop additions. This was mashed at 67C/153F

10 Gallons US

Est OG 1.050, Est IBU 40


15.5 lb MO Pale malt

.75 lb Crystal 55L


2 oz Challenger @ 90 min

1 oz Challenger @ 15 min

London Ale Yeast, White Labs WLP-013
 

Northern_Brewer

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since the Munton's is older I want to use that up first.
Fair enough.
I'll try 1099 and 1469 next time. I moved to a conical fermenter which gives better temperature control, but removes the ability to split batch and test yeasts. I want to do more A-B comparisons.

I only mentioned 1099 because of the Whitbread connection to Gold Label. As I say, I've found WLP041 gives a nice drinkability, in general I find the US lab yeasts a bit bland but it's worth trying any in the WLP02x range, and the elusive WLP037 Manchester may be the most-actually-British of the lot, it seems well thought of by the rare few that have tried it but it's almost never available.

On the subject of temperature control, see this classic thread - as with all these things, so much of it is process rather than recipe :


I've brewed several bitters but haven't yet made one that I really liked. I'm looking for malt complexity, rich flavor, drinkability, and nuanced but subtle esters. Basically a pils from the UK. Does anyone have a recipe for a great bitter?
I don't really drink classic brown bitters so I've not devoted much time to brewing them - they're tough to do really well, particularly as you go below 4%. If you don't brew many then I'd strongly recommend aiming for 4.3% or so of classic Best strength, that extra bit of alcohol makes a big difference. And personally I'd always replace any Fuggles with Goldings, I just don't particularly like Fuggles in pale/brown beers but I love Goldings.

But FWIW, this is the recipe that won the section at the CAMRA homebrew competition - not a particularly well-regarded competition in itself as it was the first one in recent history, but it gives you a starting point.

 
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